Monday, May 2, 2011


My boys are going to the beach today. M took all three of them to visit grandparents in the ocean town I grew up in and even though it's still spring-chilly out there, they will go and dig in the sand, skip pebbles on the surf and clink rocks into their pockets for me to find next time I wash their clothes.

From the second floor of the house I lived in as a child you could see the ocean. It was far away but it was blue. And hazy, even on clear days. From the third floor there was more of it and I imagine the roof offered an even grander view, but there are limits. I haven't been in that house since I was eighteen; maybe global warming has brought it even closer, I don't know.

I miss the ocean. When you turn your gaze toward endless it does something beneficial to your brain. It's like sleep, only with an awake level of awareness. Growing up I took the beach for granted; I could walk there from my best friend's house and we spent hours every summer coated in sand. Now going to the beach is an event and has to be planned, prepared for, talked about, and then there is the inevitable disappointment - someone gets sand in their eyes, someone else has their snack stolen by a daring seagull. It's not like the lazy, floaty days I remember from when I was a kid. Nothing ever is, is it?

Ocean rocks lie all over our house: on the windowsill above the kitchen sink; lining the porch railing, on the hearth in the living room. They have no use but to hold the house down and remind us of the beach, that there are things much, much huger than ourselves moving in the world, that something as malleable as water can smooth over, break down something as hard as rock.

I miss my men when I'm alone in the house, and the missing feels so good. I can eat when I want, drink a glass of wine in the afternoon, stay up late writing in bed. I can move freely out the door to run to the lake without a trail of questions ("Where are you going? Can I come?") following me down the driveway. But when I know they are on their way home to me, that's even sweeter. Here they come, bearing their hugs and sticky kisses, pebbles from the sea presented to me like the jewels they are.

I often wonder why the water has such a pull over me. Today in an attempt to find the perfect shot, M and I went to the river. We each walked around in companionable silence with our cameras trying to capture the scene in front of us. As I gazed into the current I was mesmerized; the movement pulling me along, my focus on the everchanging patterns of the waves. I could have spent the whole day there, content to have the sun shining down upon us. Spring is finally here, the one that we have earned a thousand times over. The snow has only recently left us, in fact much of the water down below is from the recent thaw. As it makes its way to the sea, I wonder if I could just jump in and float to that same destination. I don’t presume to think it could be as easy as that. I have been trying for years to move closer to some body of water, pond, lake, river (I’m not that particular) but each time, it seems, my plans are thwarted. Twice we have looked at houses that have a view of the river, but both of those deals fell through, for one reason or another. Two years ago I was offered a job in Maine. I would have had a view of the ocean from my office, but it was not to be. I don’t see how I could have worked there. I would have wanted those I love nearest and dearest to uproot and move with us--which would not have been possible. So here we stay.

Last week one of the women who comes with her toddler to my storytime stopped in to pick up some new books and to deliver her sad news in person. She told me her little family would be leaving the area shortly. As she talked about the reasons to be going back to where they originally lived, being near the grandparents was high on the list. But when she talked about being near the ocean again, I could see in her eyes how desperately she needed to have that wish come true.

In some ways the ocean and I have a long distance love affair. I count the minutes until we can be together again, I get a little giddy when I start to anticipate a trip to the beach, I replay my favorite parts of our time together over and over again in my head, and when I have to leave to come back home I almost can’t tear myself away. I often threaten to live on the beach. I adamantly tell my family they can go home without me. I imagine making a fort or shelter under the life guard’s chair from whatever scraps are at hand. My address under the chair would sound a bit Harry Potterish and my hair would constantly be whipping in the wind. My skin would probably take on a too-pink tinge, and I don’t know that the sand would ever leave my shoes, but I think I would be happy. At least I’d like to give it a try.

Word for next week: Head

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh... the ocean. It is soul filling and mesmerizing. I never saw the ocean until I was 10 (living in VT - we got the Lake). I hated Long Island except for the beach. It is a love affair for sure. I have a place picked out on Martha's Vineyard to stay in the event of a major health problem(the people living there will have to move unless they want to share :)